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  • Writer's pictureJodi Samuels

I Love Living In New York.

Updated: Mar 22, 2021

I grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa. We had a privileged life, similar to an American Jewish family on Long Island. The South African community is small, close knit and almost everyone is from the Lithuanian origin. In Joburg, as we call it, the Jews all aspire to live in the same neighborhood, drive the same car, dress the same and vacation at the same destinations. Everyone is a the stereotypical doctor, lawyer and accountant. You have made it when you look, act and live exactly like the Joneses or perhaps, in this case, the Goldbergs.

I was never the typical Joburg girl. I had a job at age 13, became religious and then got married very young. Instead of opting for married life just like my friends, Gavin I went to work in very remote outback locations in New Zealand and Australia where everything was very different.

Of course, arriving in New York was a whole new experience and, 10 years later, I still marvel at the diversity on this small piece of rock called Manhattan.

I love:

• When I host Shabbat guests, they are from 40 countries and they include aspiring actors, successful lobbyists, intelligent journalists, very rich businessmen, political activists and more.

• The diversity and richness of Jewish life – the fact that I can wear jeans, not cover my hair and have as my closest mentors people like Slovie Wolff.

• Every spectrum of Jewish life exists here. I am part of a group of women who meet to try to set up our single friends. Every time I try to set up someone from outside of New York, they are always intrigued and overwhelmed by the titles Machmir (strict), modern Orthodox, Egalitarian, Orthodox, Conservodox, etc. Just like the Eskimos, who need 25 words for ice, Jews in NY have many words to describe themselves.

• People here aspire for success–we applaud success, we worship it. In Australia, there was a commonly used saying, “Tall Poppy Syndrome,” when people did not want one person to succeed above the rest. New Yorkers do not even know of this idiom.

• My friends who all have gardens back home all ask incredulously how we manage. TG, I live in a building with lots of gardens and a playground. I live 30 seconds from Central Park and I have the best, most well-maintained garden that I never need to groom. On that note, I love the fact that the playground and playroom in the building mean built-in play dates without leaving home.

• We NEVER have to shovel snow.

• In how many places can you go to a comedy club and be served kosher, mevushal wine?

• Last night, I met Mayor Ed Koch. I have so many opportunities to go to events with politicians, successful business people and amazing performers. In the last few months, I attended a private invite meeting with Netanyahu, a memorial service for Rabin with former President Clinton, lunch at the U.N. with the Israeli ambassador, and dinner with Israel’s minister of finance. I have listened to top musicians and so much more.

• I love the fact that I can order almost anything on Amazon and it’s delivered right to my doorman. I buy everything from dog food to diapers. Why go shopping? If I do, it’s delivered to my door.

• I never need a maintenance person or a plumber, I just call our Super. My husband cannot even change light bulbs so I love having help on site.

• I love watching neighborhoods gentrify. Ten years ago our neighborhood was full of poor ladies, now it’s full of rich ladies. The corner used to host guys in doo-rags and now all you see are people holding Whole Food shopping bags.

• My favorite stories are about the beggar on our street corner, Dianne. She knows when it’s a three-day Yom Tov and requests $3 instead of $1. She also once was waiting for Gavin at the subway and told him that his wife had gone into the building with another man. She then told him: “Don’t worry, he is fatter than you.” Where else but NY?

Of course, it has its quirks like garbage that mounds and rots outside million dollar apartment buildings, rats, and, of course, the beggars. We compromise so much in space. Recently, I was in the suburbs for Shabbat, The houses have basements bigger that our apartments yet they cannot park their cars in their garages as they are too filled with junk. We had a really funny interaction that sums up New York. We have neighbors that live in a one-bedroom with three kids. A few weeks ago we were having a Shabbat meal with them and other couples and the wife mentioned they were thinking of moving into the closet (they had converted a closet to a small bedroom). Anywhere else, people may not have understood but the other couple chimed in that they too live in a converted closet.

Metroimmas, tell us why you love your city?

Originally published: January 13, 2011


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